“I want the Turtles of my Childhood Back!”
Of the eight different species of sea turtles found worldwide, the Western Indian Ocean is home to five: the Green turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Olive Ridley. From hatchling to adult, sea turtles are highly migratory species and move between many different countries during their life stages. They have an incredibly high cultural and socio-economic significance for many communities in the region, and are essential for keeping the oceans healthy.
However, our sea turtles are facing many threats, including the destruction of nesting and feeding areas, falling victim to bycatch or ghost nets, and unsustainable exploitation for their meat and eggs. Addressing these threats is difficult, but progress is being made all across the Western Indian Ocean region.
Over the next few weeks, Our Blue Future partner, WWF Kenya, will be sharing some of their successful strategies, through the focus of ocean champions. These individuals have a beautiful story to tell.
In our first of six stories, see how WWF Kenya leverages Blue Technology to help protect a cornerstone species of the WIO! And our fun fact for this week: The leatherback sea turtle can grow up to 1.8 meters long, and weigh up to 500kg. Read more about the initiative here.
“I want the Turtles of my Childhood Back”
“When I was a young girl I would come to the beach every evening during the high tides to watch turtles ‘play’ on the waves, then they would crawl to the sandy beach. They are amazing creatures, watching them follow the tide is breathtaking. I can’t explain the feeling, you have to experience it to get what I am saying. Today, the story is different, when I come to the beach I am Lucky to spot one, they have been hunted, killed by plastics or trapped by fishing nets. Turtles on the beach have been replaced by trash and plastics.
I want my children to experience the feeling I felt, I don’t want my children to read in books about sea turtles. I want the turtles of my childhood to come back. I will do everything possible to make sure they come back.
I just want the view of my childhood, that’s all; come every evening and watch the turtles swim on the high tides. That’s why I volunteer my time to help WWF-Kenya patrol the Mkokoni beach and record data using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) provided to the Kiunga turtle conservation group, we record and report on turtle nests or sightings. The patrols take place during the day and at night, because turtles come out to lay eggs at night fall. We patrol the Mkokoni beach at night and during the day. I have to do what it takes to ensure their population bounces back. Marine turtles are endangered. I have decided to help them because they are helpless. If the turtles are healthy, the ocean is and so are my people and my community whose economy and livelihoods depend on the ocean.” Mulhat Mohamed- Kiunga turtle conservation group
24-year-old Mulhat Mohamed is a teacher by training and a member of the Kiunga turtle conservation group comprising of 20 youth from Kiunga protected area who volunteer by working with WWF-Kenya on marine turtle conservation.
WWF-Kenya through funding from WWF-UK is improving monitoring efforts through the use of GPS issued to Turtle conservation groups and other stakeholders to enhance monitoring and surveillance of sea turtles as well as gauge effort. The groups receive training on carrying out beach patrols, nest verification and translocation, tagging and monitoring of sea turtles. Intensive and extensive monitoring of nesting beaches has increased hatchling success rates.